A useful reminder:
Before you start to consider all the ways that you can protect your children in the Summer heat, it’s important to remember that they look to you as their key role model. How you act and protect yourself in the hot Summer months will directly influence how your child learns about sun protection.
At Stepping Stone Childcare & Early Development Centres, our staff are all aware of their role in modelling good sun safety to the children in our care. We always ensure children are appropriately dressed for the outdoors, that outdoor play is planned carefully and that children are kept well hydrated throughout the day.
The importance of sun safety
Although your child needs sunshine in order to help their bodies to make Vitamin D, it’s essential that they are always fully protected against the sun. Too much exposure to sun can lead to sunburn, damage to the eyes, skin cancer and even a weakened immune system.
It’s useful to take a bit of time to understand how the protection needed against the sun changes throughout the day, and throughout the year. UV radiation can vary from season to season and from area to area so factors to consider include your geographical location as well as the time of year and the time of day.
Babies and children
Generally, babies under 12 months should be kept out of direct sunlight, especially if the UV radiation level is 3 or above. This can occur even on a cloudy day so don’t be fooled into thinking that the risk is lower simply because it’s not bright blue skies.
Children over 12 months should be protected from the sun and ideally kept in the shade as much as possible during the hottest times of the day. It’s fairly simple to adjust your day to make this possible – just plan trips to the park or outdoor space in the early morning or late afternoon rather than before or after lunchtime.
It can be difficult applying sunscreen to children but it’s essential that you normalise this process so they understand that applying sunscreen is going to be a routine part of their everyday lives. Try to make it fun by putting some in their hand and encouraging them to put it on themselves.
Always use SPF30 or above for any areas that are exposed to the sun. It’s often worth doing a child’s entire body at the start of the day to ensure you’re covered in case they take off layers as it warms up.
Many people make the mistake of applying sunscreen just before they step outside. In fact, you should be applying it in advance – at least 20 minutes prior to leaving the house. You should also set a reminder to yourself to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. This is even more important if your children have been swimming.
Opt for shade and wear the right clothing
Although wearing sunscreen is absolutely vital in terms of sun protection, you also need to consider the importance of sun protective clothing as well as remembering to stay in the shade as much as possible.
Try to find dense shade (the type that creates a dark shadow) wherever possible. If you’re in a park or a playground that doesn’t offer much shade, try to take an umbrella or gazebo so that you can make your own. If you have a baby or toddler in a pram, put up the shade cover as much as possible.
Clothing wise you should make sure your child has the following during the Spring/Summer months:
- Sun protective clothing with a UPF rating of 50+
- Clothing with tightly woven fabric to let in minimal sunlight and made from cotton or linen to
help keep them cool
- Long sleeve tops wherever possible
- Wetsuits and rash vests for swimming outdoors
- Broad brimmed hats offering shade to the neck area as well
- Close fitting, wrap around style sunglasses that meet Australian safety standards
Enjoy the outdoors
Australia’s climate is great for kids – it’s warm, it’s sunny and children can enjoy hours of playtime exploring the great outdoors. Sun protection is extremely important, especially in the warm Summer months, to ensure that children can enjoy their days outside safely.
Teaching children about sun safety from a young age will benefit them in the long term and ensure that they grow up to become healthy, happy adults who are able to enjoy the sun sensibly.